Friday, April 24, 2009

10 Reasons to be Happy

Detail from one of my
kitchen paintings.
When I paint the kitchen
it's the excitement and
exuberance of our lives
there I'm trying to capture.
We always have flowers,
bowls of fruit and someone
settling down to a cup of coffee
or tea.

I teach a course on school success -- a very enjoyable
job. One day in the winter driving to school I realized
that I wanted my class to know how much psychology
has changed in the last two decades, but even more
so in the past ten years. I wanted them to know that
there's been a shift from examining people's flaws, to planning
a present and future life that would be fulfilling -- to each

I had one of my "aha" moments on the way to school and
decided to introduce a new exercise called Ten Reasons to Be
. I explained that in a negative news world, this
whole concept was decidedly radical. But we started.
Each day when we had time, ten people (and towards the
end of the term more) would go to the front of the class
and each student said one reason that she or he was happy,
and related it back to the course.

The impact was dynamic. In fact I've never seen anything
like it in 18 years of teaching. This exercise filtered into
their daily lives as they thought about what they'd talk
about if it happened to be their turn in the class. I picked
the people to go to the front at random, unless they
volunteered, but all were welcome. In my very last class,
the whole class went to the front and it was a delightful
sight to see.

Their reasons were connected to the course, so some were
doing well in school (study skills), some were learning to
love themselves and others (self knowledge), some were
managing their time better (time management). But the
smiles on those faces really blew me away.

Here are my 10 reasons to be happy today:

1. The term is over, and I feel like I did the best job
teaching that I've ever done.
2. I am going to work on a painting tonight.
3. I've started to mark today's exams (time management)
4. We had Jerk Salmon for dinner tonight and it was delicious
5. I have wonderful friends in my daily life, and in the blog world.
6. I washed the kitchen floor yesterday.
7. My sick cat is eating again (salmon).
8. It's the weekend!
9. I'm reading a great book.
10. I'll get to go for a walk with my husband tomorrow in
the beautiful ravine near our house.

You get the idea. The reasons can be small (a good meal), or
big (falling in love). One day last week I called my mother
and I was very upset about something. She started listing
reasons to be happy, unprompted. She said there was a
beautiful bird in the tree outside her window, she could see
sailboats on the river, the weather was warmer, she'd been
asked out to dinner, and I started to cheer up. Maybe she
was my best teacher. I thought if she can be happy, and
she lives alone, and has been a widow for over 20 years,
how can I possibly feel anything but happy, with my wonderful
family and friends around me.

Have a 100-reasons-to-be-happy day.


Pam Holnback said...

I love this kitchen painting...the red peeking through, the happy feeling, the dishes..all of it. And, your blog thoughts today were great. My husband and a friend left early this morning to drive up to the mountains to pick up our boat. So, we had to set the alarm, which since retiring from teaching we rarely do. So, we both immediately said how woderful it is to not have to set an alarm each day. We started our morning w/ a happy thought!!

Unknown said...

Thank you for starting my Saturday morning with such inspiring thoughts and a beautiful painting to look at! I'm going to go and have a great day!

laura said...

I love the painting, Barbara--so much of interest in it, such jazzy colors!
Your reason to be happy exercise is brilliant. I'm going to have something for my list every day!
(Love #6! "yesterday" is the best dfay for such onerous chores!)

Barbara Muir said...

Hi Pam,

I'm so glad you started the day with a happy thought. That's what I love about the weekend -- no alarm.

I'm glad you like the painting too.


Barbara Muir said...

Hi Barb,

Have super great day, and I will too
thanks to your kind message.


Barbara Muir said...

Hi Laura,

You're right yesterday is the best day. Today it's the bathroom floor, and tomorrow that will be a yesterday chore too.

You're funny and kind. Glad you like the painting -- I am very fond of bright colours.

Take care,


r garriott said...

Your painting today makes me happy, so that's reason one...
A very inspiring post, Barbara!

Barbara Muir said...

Hi R.,

Thanks so much. And your beautiful paintings offer me so many reasons to be happy.

Take care,


julie davis said...

Barbara, you're like a wave of positive in my day! I'm sure your students must feel the same. Today one of my ten reasons is YOU! Great color in this painting, too--isn't the kitchen always the heart of the home?

Sandra Galda said...

great post content and the painting is really eye catching!

Liza Hirst said...

Reading this post and looking at your painting already made me smile, made me a bit happier!
Thanks to you, Barbara! What you said about your mother reveals again, that in the end everything is relative, isn't it? And that's why it's often very helpful to just stand back and get some distance to the problem you might be juggling with. Love your colourful painting!

Barbara Muir said...

Hi Julie,

And you are one of mine. The other day I told the students as they sat doing nothing waiting for me to let them out of the exam to write 100 reasons to be happy. A few of them did and I laughed with delight as I read them.

Yes the kitchen is the heart of our home -- it's the only really fixed up room.

Take care,


Barbara Muir said...

Hi Sandra,

Thanks for the lovely compliment.


Barbara Muir said...

Hi Liza,

It's true isn't it? I am so impressed by the bravery of people going through very hard times. It isn't that I'm free from hard times, but I see their courage -- the courage of young people who have lost both parents recently, who still laugh and smile with their friends every day, and I realize that happiness takes supreme courage.

Your paintings make me happy!


Portrait Artist

My photo
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
I paint and draw on commission and for shows. To commission a portrait, or purchase one of my paintings please contact me at:
A major highlight in my career? Drawing Oprah Winfrey live via Skype for her show "Where in the Skype are you? Galleries: Studio Vogue Gallery, Toronto, Canada. The Amsterdam Whitney Gallery, New York City. Gallery at the Porch Door, Kingston, Canada. Your positive comments on this blog mean the world to me. I'd love to hear from you!